Television

"DD News needs imaginative handling of news without resorting to sensationalism": Deepak Chaurasia - DD News consulting editor

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When Deepak Chaurasia, the 30-year-old political editor of Aaj Tak, was announced the consulting editor of Prasar Bharati's news channel DD News, critics speculated if the decision was unwise. They opined, it is one thing to be on camera and report/cover events from different parts of the world and entirely another to head a news channel.

Chaurasia, who had ample experience in a private channel, nevertheless needed a certain perspective to join the pubcaster. For starters, he had to bear in mind that DD News is a far cry from private satellite channels (like Aaj Tak), where not just performance but accountability counts too.

The shift would be dramatic - from a result-oriented company to what most people believed was a government organisastion, with a 'sub kucch chalta hai' (everything goes) attitude. A former senior colleague of Chaurasia in Aaj Tak put it aptly while wishing him luck, "One hopes he understands what he is getting into!"

In this interview, indiantelevision.com's Anjan Mitra tries to demystify the mind of the man who could be DD's king - given his close ties with politicians - but can also end up as a scapegoat if the news channel relaunch fails.

Excerpts:

With what agenda have you stepped into DD News?

The biggest challenge is to make the news channel professionally competitive so that it can stand proudly amid other channels. Presently, it seems rather difficult to get DD News to that position.

With DD, reach and credibility have never been a problem - it has often been noticed that irrespective of what news channels people watch, they finally return to news on DD. Generating content is also not a problem with DD and its vast network.

The problem with our channel arises with packaging of news, which I feel, private channels are better at. How you use the news and content you have so that it is compelling as well as attractive for the viewer - is what needs to be looked into.

How are you addressing the areas in which DD News has to be made competitive? Or to put flatly, how do you propose to remove deficiencies?

We are working on that aspect. However, it is too early for me to point out the changes. I am barely a few days old in the set-up.

However, the look and feel of the revamped DD News is good. Now we need to add some zing to the channel with some good packaging.

Can you illustrate how good packaging can make a difference to the channel?

Let us, for example, take a news report on the India-New Zealand-Australia cricket tri-series. Footages for the match are not a problem with DD. However, if the report uses the visuals of some great shots and wickets tumbling, viewers would certainly sit up and take notice.

In short, our channel needs imaginative handling of news without resorting to sensationalism.

"We have the responsibility of giving news and views of the day in a correct, simple and interesting manner"

Any other area that needs attention, in particular?

I think we need to be a bit more focused. One cannot, and should not, forget that DD also has a role to play as a public-service broadcaster. We have the responsibility of giving the news and views of the day in a correct, simple and interesting manner. The newsroom needs to be structured a bit too.

Finally, DD News has to convey everything to the viewer keeping in mind the common man's perspective and interests.

Your statement sounds as if you have already started mouthing politicians' lines? Is it a precursor to unleashing government propaganda on DD News?

What I meant was that every development in the country - especially those relating to the government - will have an effect on the common man, the industry, the economy and the society at large. DD News' endeavour would be to take these developments to the average viewer.

As far as my backing the government is concerned, one must remember that the biggest source of news for every private channel is the government. Every ministry is tracked by the channels - almost every press conference of ministers is beamed live and the camera nowadays is also getting into the private lives of politicians and ministers. Why accuse only DD of being a vehicle for government propaganda?

You said it. While DD would gloss over all the deficiencies in the government, the private channels would highlight them for the benefit of the hoi-polloi. Would you agree this is what sets DD apart from other channels?

Every media organisation has its own agenda and a different perspective. I don't remember DD blocking out any news ever. The perspective and the tone may be different - so what's the harm? Others too have their perspectives.

DD would like to be remembered for communicating credible news and making complicated and difficult information easier for the viewers.

"If some programmes are being outsourced, it is only indicative of shortage of manpower at DD News"

Does credibility also mean dull, boring and delivering news late, for DD?

DD News is certainly not boring or dull in its new avatar.

What about Prasar Bharati chairman M V Kamath's example at the DD News relaunch function?

(Kamath had said that "realising their social responsibility", DD News as well as AIR took several hours to report former Indian PM Indira Gandhi's assassination.)

I would not like to comment on that.

Coming from a channel like Aaj Tak, do you feel that the bureaucratic set-up of DD would allow you enough freedom to bring about changes?

It depends on how you interpret freedom. News on DD is presented the way news should be. I don't remember news being blocked on DD.

You (as well as Prasar Bharati CEO) have indicated that there is in-house talent in DD. If that is so, why is DD News outsourcing programmes to some private producers?

Definitely, there are talented people in DD. If that had not been so, the news channel would not have been put together in such a short notice. If some programmes are being outsourced, it is only indicative of shortage of manpower at DD News.

"My credibility is my best credential. Main mehnat karta gaya aur siriyan judti gayee..."

At a time, when viewership and resultant TRPs are important to garner advertising revenue, would DD News also resort to the new syndrome of everything being 'breaking news' or 'exclusive' or 'live'?

If some development is live or deserves to be categorised 'breaking news', we would call it so. But DD News would not overdo things.

Amidst so many already existing news channels, how would DD News carve its niche?

The whole business of news has exploded in India in the past few years. In such a scenario, DD News would certainly have a place somewhere at the top, connecting with the people.

It is being alleged that you landed the assignment with DD because of your political connections, especially in the high quarters in the government. Your comments.

My credibility is my best credential. People know that I have worked sincerely. With an experience of 11 years behind me, I would not like to comment on such allegations.

All I want to say is, main mehnat karta gaya or siriyan judti gayee (I kept working hard and the rungs kept adding to the ladder, automatically).

You took some time before accepting the offer from DD? What was the dilemma?

I was made the offer about three weeks before Diwali (25 October). Understandably, I was weighing the pros and cons of the job. I must admit, there have been several offers from other satellite channels in the past too, but I was not ready to leave Aaj Tak at the time probably.

As the consulting editor of DD News, are you expected to be on-screen only or do some behind the scene ideation and planning too, something you don't have much experience in?

I am supposed to do both - anchoring and planning for the channel.

Do you also harbor political ambition like some journalists-turned-politicians?

Not at all. I know many politicians from almost every party, but personally I don't have any such ambition.

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